Monkey bars. Do you remember them? They sort of beg you to hang upside down and look at the world from a different viewpoint, don’t they? It’s a structure so you’re either on the monkey bars or you’re not. You are either willing to climb and stretch and twirl. Or you’re not. And it’s okay, really. There’s always the teeter totter that will knock your chin into next week, if you like that sort of thing.
But, really. We’re all grown-ups here. And this is still the playground. And you can either see London, France and Stinky’s underpants, or not.
The big decisions come as little ones. Actually. They masquerade as, “So whaddya think?” And your answer to “Whaddya think?” sets the whole trajectory of your life. Or, at the very least, it exposes what is in your heart.
As a Christian I have at my fingertips the concept of Grace. And Christians are wildly prone to apply grace to themselves but be really super stingy when it comes to other people. We just do this. I don’t know where we learned it. And I’m really grossed out by that, and apologize. Yeah.
Grace, we’ll happily recite to you is unmerited favor. Awesome. Let’s throw a few Christianese jargon-y words in there so you can’t be on the team, once again. We’re still in Junior High apparently and picking teams, and if you know the words and how to use them then you’ll be picked to be on the team. Good grief. What a recollection. I hated Junior High and being the last one to be picked. Late bloomer. Whatever. I’ll need counseling after this.
Using other words I’d say that grace is about open-heartedness. It’s about giving the benefit of the doubt without requiring a person to change, without requiring that they give me, or anyone, all the precise details about how.you.got.here. In the first place.
That’s God’s nature. Actually. If we want to connect with Him in authentic relationship, that’s really how He rolls. Is it because He’s really artistic and does the broad stroke and misses detail? No. It’s because of His Son. And love. You know, love makes us all do really crazy things. And that’s what God is like. It doesn’t really matter where you’ve been or what this is all about. It’s about relationship.
Copeland produced a song called Brightest, and the lyrics are like this:
If you find yourself here on my side of town
I’d pray that you’d come to my door
Talk to me like you don’t know what we ever fought about …
To me, that’s what love looks like. Love just can’t figure out a reason to fight anymore. Like a surfer yields to the next wave, you lean into the equity of what you have together and just drop it. You let it all go, and yield to the covenants that you share with one another, whether its a lifelong commitment between best friends, or it’s a couple, or even siblings. It’s the best picture that I have for the way Father God is with us. Instead of looking at the mess, He just nods quietly and looks over at His Son. He sent His Son for our messes. Christ died the most gruesome death. But there was a purpose, so that Father could gaze at us, eye to eye. So that we could connect with Him. Father and Son. Father and Daughter.
Watch for real Love. Wait for it. Don’t accept the counterfeit. Because real love lets you be you.
For the woman who wanted more children. The Dad who always wanted a little princess. For the unmarried woman who sees her wee ones in every child that passes.
As a write this I’m seated in a crowded restaurant and the couple next to me cuddles an adorable little girl dressed in white patterned tights and lime green corduroy dress that has delicate smocking across the front. The dress looks just like dresses I wore when I was a little girl. She’s getting ready to launch from her Daddy’s arms, flapping her wings, certain that she’s ready to fly. At the table next to them is a little boy who is trying out screaming tones for the first or second time …By jove, I think he’s got the hang of it.
This morning the Lord gave me a glimpse of the babies I’ve carried in my heart. So numerous they were! I watched as they turned somersaults and toddled around Heaven’s playground. When I asked the Lord about what I was seeing He said this …
Every time you agreed to carry something in your heart for Me, I gave birth to it in the realm of the Spirit. So many broken people have abandoned what I was birthing in their womb and while it does break My heart I have a place for these little ones.
You have not known the fullness of what I’ve been doing but perhaps you’ve felt it?
While showing me these children He reminded me of all the times that I carried a dream or a prayer in my heart … a willingness to dream big dreams with a friend, or believe for healing of a friend’s illness … In Heaven’s economy we are owning another person’s pain, linking our strength with their fragile faith. It’s the heart of a parent manifesting. And Father never withholds, never ceases to reward a single glance of our eyes. Our heart expands and Father tucks another wee one under our wings.
When I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly clear on how the dots connect, He simply said, “My economy rocks My way.” And at that moment, I just saw Him as a man with His arms full of babies, rocking one with His foot and the woman in me cannot help but smile and do what I’m wired to do.
The correlation between grace and the Israelites’ manna was so rich, it seemed worthy of a Part Two!
While you were sleeping I looked at the verses a bit more and I hit the skids when I read verse 35:
“The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” — Exod 16:35
With the Israelites’ arrival at the border there was a shift that was about to occur in their culture, on their perspectives about freedom, government, day-to-day provision and much more. Most had never known anything but a lifestyle of nomadic wandering. Their lives were centered around the present moment, around this day just like the manna was supplied for one day at a time. I think we could even perceive manna to be an economy of sorts.
We also have this way of living. Our way of doing life. Manna, for us then, is the substance of our faith, the fibers of our communion with God.
The promises that hovered over the Israelites belong to us as well. Looking at verse 9, we know with certainty that the ragged and raw places that threaten at the periphery of our lives cannot touch the hidden core of who we are because, “in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord”. You see, when the Presence of the Lord invades our hearts, all our resistance melts like so much day-old manna. When morning comes to our hearts we feel Him. We feel His revelation stealing into places that were previously old and cold.
What is the manna of your relationship with The Spirit of God? The substance of your connection with Him, the umbilical cord of life flowing from Him to you, is found in a secret place. The starkness of the world, the drone of its demands on you have compelled you to hide this life-giving interchange. And yet the world longs to see the glow of your communion with Him.
How do we carry that glow in such a way that it is seen …the truth of what life in Christ is all about, and yet protect it like the petals of the rose that it is?
We only have today. Use it well. Live intentionally.
Have you ever had a friend remind you of who you are?
I love those rich moments when, as if looking in a mirror, I am re-anchored to my true self. We cherish our dearest friends because they, of all people, hold the looking glass while we listen and resonate to the sounds of Heaven. We hear the truest words with them.
When I told her my concern — that I’ll never be the life of the party — my friend reminded me of our deep friendship that we have cultivated over the years. When I shared my fears, she pushed them away with a “Pfft!” and reminded me of who I am, a wordsmith and an analyst. I see stuff. Without trying, really. Wordless discoveries, brilliant leaves freshly washed with dew beneath my feet. Clumsy attempts, and tiny blushes of color creeping along the edge of the sunrise.
I’ve heard people talk about the Now and the Not Yet.
I think sometimes we see it best when we put our best foot forward, each day working at loving people more than we did yesterday.
The Now. From within my vehicle I snap and snarl at the driver in front of me who takes far too long to make a turn. Knowing with all my heart that this is not who want to be, an impatient curmudgeon, I drive away with my head slumped because I did not choose love.
The Not Yet. It’s about understanding that God enjoys my heartfelt “yesses” toward Him, and celebrates those way more than my lapses into self-centeredness. It’s realizing He’s not torque’d at me, or even mildly irritated. Father God is pretty big on transformation projects. He goes about things in the most unusual ways, and chooses the most unlikely of candidates. A pregnant virgin, a blind man, a prostitute, a leper. Why? I think because when He showed them the mirror of who they were, in His eyes, they would be the least likely to forget what they saw there. They, of all people, would be so grateful that they would cling to the picture He reflected back to them.
When the blind man encountered Jesus, his sight was restored. There was much debate about his healing – sort of like there is today and yet the one thing he said was this, “I was blind, but now I see.”
What do you see?
Maybe it’s the nature of who I am. Or maybe its this lifetime of never having been married. I’m 44, for heaven’s sake. Did you know that AARP had the audacity to send me an early enrollment form? I nearly spat on it. I don’t know what compels me toward child-likeness, but I’ll suggest that it’s a dominant gene in my DNA.
And yes, Virginia, your DNA is twisted all to heck.
And did I tell you I might be slightly ADD? I’m only just now getting the picture. It’s that whole distraction thing. Like a freight train. Bird! Plane! Boing! Zoom! But ADD folk make great writers and programmers as long as you give them headphones with classical music. It soothes their fuffled reathers.
Childlike. To be like a child.
So many things in life demand every inch of our attention span, our energy, our focus. We need to drive the ROI. Think outside the box. Strategize. Give! Be present in the moment! Expand. Reduce. Minimize. Be faster, more efficient. It’s exhausting to just write the phrases let alone give them any meaningful consideration.
I possess memories of a nearly idyllic childhood. As kids in the Penhale family, together with our friends, we ran wild across acreages with creeks and barns and trees and open fields. We lived in the land of make believe. We would tumble indoors after playing in the creek all day, soaked to the bone, muddy, covered with horse hair or just outdoor-ness. We thought we were so burdened, so encumbered with cares. In reality we lived like bandits. Our needs were few. We trusted more. We didn’t need elaborate explanations about why.
A little boy asked me once, “Why is red?”
I looked him square in the eye and said, “Because.” He nodded solemnly, and ran off to play.
It’s enough to be like a child.
What is it about living life, and the way we throw ourselves into the unanswered question so FULLY. We immerse ourselves into the unknown, and wade through until we become the answer. It’s true. If you look at Proverbs 8, Wisdom speaks about how it existed from the beginning of time. When God the Father inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, at the time of Creation, Wisdom existed. Further examination of Scripture will show that this is actually the voice of Jesus talking, and He was with God at the time of Creation. Jesus is Wisdom. To the extent that we continually receive Christ within, we receive Wisdom. And we become enough to face our unknown circumstance.
Christ in you, the Hope of Glory. That is the mystery.
“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.” ― Elisabeth Elliot
No matter what our age is, life hands us unanswered questions. The impossible, implausible, unfathomable – you go first – situation.
We are forced to realize our inadequacy and our dependence upon God. The thing is, He loves this! Father God loves when we can come nose-to-nose with our vacant spaces, and look to Him to fill us with Himself. Our needs are what make us love deeply. It makes our lives rich and full when we see the end of ourselves; when we see ourselves in another, when we can tap into a beloved friend’s strength and become woman or man enough to walk this stretch of road.
Mastering the unknowns might give us life experience. And it might make us feel a bit needy.
But most importantly mastering the unknown makes us beautiful.
Have you ever been caught up in conversation with a friend, only to stop and listen to what you are really saying? Recently I found myself using a catch-phrase I’d learned when I was quite young, and I was startled to realize it’s implication. The phrase?
“That’s just how it’s done.”
I wonder if you hear the same authority and even arrogance that I did when I listened to myself speak. I cut my teeth on phrases like that. Words and ways of doing things. In this season where I find myself stuck with dreams that fail to gain traction, it occurs to me that I’m guided like the rails of a train track by phrases just like this, “It’s just not done.” “You need to make wise decisions so that God will bless your life.” “You need to wait on God.” Yada, yada. Christian rhetoric and societal rules for playing it safe and getting it right.
What if? What if those phrases actually represented a deep root of pride? What if they implied that I want to be found as someone who made all the right choices? What if they implied that I cared very deeply about what others think instead of caring most about what God thinks? What if God were waiting for me to just take a step instead of trying to always go about things the right way? I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist because precious little in my life implies perfect achievement and thus it’s silliness to even go down that path. Yet those who are close to me will attest that I am wired to do it the.right.way. And yet. Isn’t it the same thing? I’m the last to figure this out, by the way.
It strikes me that we hold this pose of doing things right and then we hold God hostage because He should bless us now. “I’ve done it the right way. I’ve waited (or not). I’ve spent frugally (or not). I’ve given generously (or not). And now You should get in line, God, with my plan for my life.” We pin stuff on God like He’s the donkey needing a tail.
I’ve known that the Kingdom of God is upside down, that faith doesn’t make sense, and that logic totally interferes with faith. Noted. But if I’m so committed to playing it safe and doing things just so, when do I break away from self-righteous judgment and begin walking by faith? Does it mean that I should cut bait and run? Does it mean that I should plow into a relationship with the wrong man because now I’m walking by faith and God will catch me? Does it mean that I should walk away from my obligations and commitments?
What I said earlier is profoundly true: The rules that we unconsciously live by are like train tracks. Those rails keep us so tightly wound that we won’t even watch for God to intervene supernaturally because we are so hard-wired to have things go the way we think they should go. And God? He’s keen on doing things in such a way that we’ll know it could only be Him. He wants to blow our circuits with His goodness and His creativity.
My heart is quiet as I realize the deep pride that is rooted in my words, and the authority with which I’ve spoken them. No wonder He’s waiting for me.
A heart-change would be good right about now. After that? I think I’m going to live a little.